Chances are by now you’ve probably seen the significant media coverage of Cecil the Lion and River Bluff Dental. One day Dr. Walter J. Palmer was happily trekking along through life and running his business and the next day he closed the doors of his business and went into hiding. This is one of the most extreme recent cases of crisis management and reputation management.
At this point, it’s unlikely that River Bluff Dental will ever rebuild its reputation to its previous state, if they even consider reopening. Dr. Walter J. Palmer may have killed Cecil, but he simultaneously killed River Bluff Dental.
Here are the three things we need to learn from this terrible situation;
It is well-known that the reputation of the founder or CEO of the company is often closely associated with the reputation of the company. There is both a positive and negative side of this.
Building your personal reputation as the CEO or founder of the company will often assist with improving the company’s reputation. This is common when executives are known for supporting the community, donating to causes, and speaking at events.
Content creation is another way for CEOs and founders to build up their reputation. By contributing articles, videos, and audio content, people will be able to learn more about executives established trust and familiarity.
All it takes is one bad decision to destroy your company’s reputation.
Many review websites and business listings have rules stating that reviews must be from customers of the business. They also have rules in place that the review must be about the services delivered. While most of these review websites attempt to apply these rules algorithmically, oftentimes, reviews not related to the business services go unfiltered.
One of the biggest reputation management questions from the case of Cecil the Lion and River Bluff Dental is:
“Should reviews not directly related to the delivered services be allowed to stay on the business listing?”
The next question is:
“Should reviews regarding the business owner’s personal activities, ethical standards, and beliefs be permitted to remain on the business listing page?”
For the business owner, the answer is almost irrelevant because the case of Cecil the Lion and River Bluff Dental has proven that a business owner’s personal activities can be shared on the company’s business listings and it will have a negative impact on the company’s reputation.
Crisis management firms have been saying it for years, a bad reputation can and will destroy your company. The extensive media coverage of this case has led River Bluff Dental to close its doors. Whether this is a temporary or permanent closure is not certain, but most likely it will be permanent.
The big take away here is that if a company and its founders are not ethically sound inside and out, a business-ending reputation incident can happen in the blink of an eye.